chapter  12
7 Pages

The future of English

English teachers have always had to, and no doubt always will, balance the old with the new, the classic forms with the emerging forms, the standard and proper with the subversive and challenging. Working within this set of dichotomies, English teachers are well placed to foster traditional skills and highlight the literary gems of the past, although it’s likely that few new teachers at the beginning of the twenty-first century would posit themselves merely, or even mainly, as exponents of the Cultural Heritage model (see p. 10). Equally, it is to be hoped that few of us see ourselves solely as deliverers of basic skills, preparing pupils for entry into the world of work. Indeed, if this were the main function of English teaching, we should be spending a lot more time trying to predict the kinds of technological and social change that might shape the working lives of pupils currently in our care. Most English teachers probably occupy the middle ground, recognising the importance of offering students the opportunity to experience and access the literary greats, as well as the more functional nature of our subject and the contribution it makes in creating a skilled, literate workforce of the future. Many of us also want to use our subject to facilitate personal development and engagement among our students, to encourage ‘students as participants in, and creators of, culture as opposed to merely inheritors of someone else’s’ (Goodwyn, 2000:6). If we add to that the tradition of critical analysis of literature and other texts, and thereby the world they present and represent, we have a broad and fairly enduring definition of English teaching.